Wai Wah Chin — The NYC Exam School Controversy


In this week’s TGS, we’re talking about an issue that seems local but has big national implications. Wai Wah Chin is the Charter President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York, and she joins me to discuss an ongoing controversy in New York City’s exam schools. These schools are rigorous public high schools that focus on STEM subjects, and admission is determined by student performance on a single exam. If you can excel on one test, you can get access to a free first-rate education, regardless of income, race, zip code, or even past academic performance. This is especially important in a city where top private schools often charge tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.

Historically, exam schools have been a triumph of colorblind meritocracy. They’ve brought untold numbers of talented but under-resourced students to the attention of top universities. But, as Wai Wah explains, the exam school system is currently under threat from advocates who regard the high numbers of Asian American students (over 50% in some cases) at these schools as evidence of de facto segregation that excludes blacks. Wai Wah explains why proposed changes to the exam school admissions system discriminate against Asians, and why parallel attempts to eliminate the Gifted and Talented Program for New York students will only exacerbate racial disparities in the education system. Finally, Wai Wah connects discrimination against Asians in education to the disturbing increase in violence against Asians across the country.

Wai Wah is a passionate advocate for her cause. I can tell you this is not the last time I’ll be discussing these crucial matters on TGS.


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0:00 What are NYC exam schools?

5:25 The recent attempt to change exam school admissions

11:50 Wai Wah: Changes to exam schools will discriminate against Asian students

17:40 Wai Wah's attempts to expand the Gifted and Talented Program

27:26 Are exam schools "segregated"?

39:29 Eric Adams's support for increasing the number of exam schools

42:00 Wai Wah: Asians are being scapegoated

Links and Readings

The Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York

Dream Factories, a mini-doc about NYC exam schools

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